Week 9. Amusement Parks and World Fairs
Week 9. “The Problem of the Twentieth Century is the Problem of the Color Line”: Jack Johnson & Segregated Entertainment
- Required reading this week: John Kasson, Amusing the Millions: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (New York: Hill & Wang, 1978).
- Required watching this week: Ken Burns, “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.” You are only required to watch “Part I” though I highly recommend the full run.
- Required reading this week: *W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Excerpt “Chapter 1. Of Our Spiritual Strivings” (The excerpt is also included below on this page. We will discuss this excerpt as a class):
- Recommended reading: *Excerpt, Wells, Ida B., Southern Horrors (1892) and Hannah-Jones, Nikole “When Ida B. Wells Married, It Was a Page One Story” New York Times, January 23, 2017.
- Recommended reading: Collector’s Weekly, “The Sharecropper’s Daughter Who Made Black Women Proud of Their Hair”
“Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson”
Photographs of Jack Johnson the “New Negro” Heavy Weight Champion & Ida B. Wells
Additional Footage of Jack Johnson
Sample Newspaper Articles on the Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries “Fight of the Century”
- “Who Will Wear the Heavyweight Crown-Jeff or Johnson?,” The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), 26 June 1910, Sporting Section, image 36.
- “Fighters, Ready, Resting on Eve of Greatest Ring Battle,” The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 3 July 1910, page 47, image 47, cols.1-7.
- “To-Morrow Decides World’s Heavyweight Championship,” The Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 3 July 1910, Sporting Section, page 1, image 5.
- “Jeffries and Johnson Winding Up Their Days of Training,” New-York Tribune (New York, NY), 3 July 1910, page 8, image 8.
- “Jeffries and Johnson Ready For Fight,” The Morning Examiner (Ogden, UT), 3 July 1910, page 2, image 2, cols. 1-7.
- “Johnson Wins World’s Championship in 15th Round,” The Ogden Standard (Ogden City, UT), 4 July 1910, page 1, image 1.
- “The Big Fight By Rounds,” The Paducah Evening Sun (Paducah, KY), 4 July 1910, page 1, image 1, cols. 1-4.
- “Fighters Await Gong for Championship Battle,” The Washington Herald (Washington, DC), 4 July 1910, page 9, image 9, cols. 1-7.
- “Jeff’s Lack of Skill in Boxing Helped Johnson Win,” The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, CA), 5 July 1910, page 17, image 17, col. 2.
- “Johnson Wins Fight in Fifteenth Round,” Palestine Daily Herald (Palestine, TX), 5 July 1910, image 5, cols.1-3.
- “His Courage as White as his Skin is Black,” The Times Dispatch (Richmond, VA), 5 July 1910, Sporting Section, image 5, col. 1.
Coney Island Multimedia to accompany Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century
Photographs of Coney Island’s Visual Culture
Some of these photographs are provided in Kasson’s book. I am providing enlarged digital copies for you here so you can see their details.
Multimedia Related to World’s Fair History
If you want to see some of the amazing architecture that integrated lights and electricity in the Chicago “Columbian Exposition,” I recommend this clip.
W.E.B. Du Bois and the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris
“Double Consciousness” excerpt from WEB Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk
‘Of Our Spiritual Strivings’
O water, voice of my heart, crying in the sand, All night long crying with a mournful cry, As I lie and listen, and cannot understand The voice of my heart in my side or the voice of the sea, O water, crying for rest, is it I, is it I? All night long the water is crying to me. Unresting water, there shall never be rest Till the last moon droop and the last tide fail, And the fire of the end begin to burn in the west; And the heart shall be weary and wonder and cry like the sea, All life long crying without avail, As the water all night long is crying to me.
“Between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it. All, nevertheless, flutter round it. They approach me in a half-hesitant sort of way, eye me curiously or compassionately, and then, instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? they say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil? At these I smile, or am interested, or reduce the boiling to a simmer, as the occasion may require. To the real question, How does it feel to be a problem? I answer seldom a word.And yet, being a problem is a strange experience,–peculiar even for one who has never been anything else, save perhaps in babyhood and in Europe. It is in the early days of rollicking boyhood that the revelation first bursts upon one, all in a day, as it were. I remember well when the shadow swept across me. I was a little thing, away up in the hills of New England, where the dark Housatonic winds between Hoosac and Taghkanic to the sea. In a wee wooden schoolhouse, something put it into the boys’ and girls’ heads to buy gorgeous visiting-cards–ten cents a package–and exchange. The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card, –refused it peremptorily, with a glance. Then it dawned upon me with a certain suddenness that I was different from the others; or like, mayhap, in heart and life and longing, but shut out from their world by a vast veil. I had thereafter no desire to tear down that veil, to creep through; I held all beyond it in common contempt, and lived above it in a region of blue sky and great wandering shadows. That sky was bluest when I could beat my mates at examination-time, or beat them at a foot-race, or even beat their stringy heads. Alas, with the years all this fine contempt began to fade; for the words I longed for, and all their dazzling opportunities, were theirs, not mine. But they should not keep these prizes, I said; some, all, I would wrest from them. Just how I would do it I could never decide: by reading law, by healing the sick, by telling the wonderful tales that swam in my head, –some way. With other black boys the strife was not so fiercely sunny: their youth shrunk into tasteless sycophancy, or into silent hatred of the pale world about them and mocking distrust of everything white; or wasted itself in a bitter cry, Why did God make me an outcast and a stranger in mine own house? The shades of the prison-house closed round about us all: walls strait and stubborn to the whitest, but relentlessly narrow, tall, and unscalable to sons of night who must plod darkly on in resignation, or beat unavailing palms against the stone, or steadily, half hopelessly, watch the streak of blue above. After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world, –a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness,–an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife,–this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face.This, then, is the end of his striving: to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture, to escape both death and isolation, to husband and use his best powers and his latent genius. These powers of body and mind have in the past been strangely wasted, dispersed, or forgotten. The shadow of a mighty Negro past flits through the tale of Ethiopia the Shadowy and of Egypt the Sphinx. Through history, the powers of single black men flash here and there like falling stars, and die sometimes before the world has rightly gauged their brightness. Here in America, in the few days since Emancipation, the black man’s turning hither and thither in hesitant and doubtful striving has often made his very strength to lose effectiveness, to seem like absence of power, like weakness. And yet it is not weakness,–it is the contradiction of double aims. The double-aimed struggle of the black artisan–on the one hand to escape white contempt for a nation of mere hewers of wood and drawers of water, and on the other hand to plough and nail and dig for a poverty-stricken horde– could only result in making him a poor craftsman, for he had but half a heart in either cause. By the poverty and ignorance of his people, the Negro minister or doctor was tempted toward quackery and demagogy; and by the criticism of the other world, toward ideals that made him ashamed of his lowly tasks. The would-be black savant was confronted by the paradox that the knowledge his people needed was a twice-told tale to his white neighbors, while the knowledge which would teach the white world was Greek to his own flesh and blood. The innate love of harmony and beauty that set the ruder souls of his people a-dancing and a-singing raised but confusion and doubt in the soul of the black artist; for the beauty revealed to him was the soul-beauty of a race which his larger audience despised, and he could not articulate the message of another people. This waste of double aims, this seeking to satisfy two unreconciled ideals, has wrought sad havoc with the courage and faith and deeds of ten thousand people,–has sent them often wooing false gods and invoking false means of salvation, and at times has even seemed about to make them ashamed of themselves.”
Weekly Mini Assignment and Guided Reading Questions for Thursday
Discussion Questions for “Amusing the Millions”
- What role does audience participation play at Coney Island?
- Previously we’ve discussed games and sports that emphasized “self-control.” What did the games at amusement parks and world fairs encourage?
- How is the human body being used in popular culture in new ways at Coney Island? What revolutionary change took place?
- What inspired George C. Tilyou and what major innovation did he make to American popular culture and entertainment?
- What technological innovations had to happen to allow theme and amusement parks?
- Were these places of urban ills or safe and clean places for family amusement?
Mini Weekly Assignment
The Library of Congress holds hundreds of photographs W.E.B. Du Bois commissioned for the 1900 World’s Fair of African Americans taken less than five years after the birth of American segregation, while Ida B. Wells was fighting lynching, and just as Jack Johnson was ascending as an internationally famous sports champion. All three Americans were trying to transform race relations by using mass entertainment and culture that were displayed, showed, or exhibited at World’s Fairs or amusement parks. The images can be found online here. Select one image that speaks to you. Analyze the photograph. In two paragraphs, put the image you selected into direct conversation with the themes in “Unforgivable Blackness” and Jack Johnson’s experience or Ida B. Well’s writing. If you’ve never analyzed a photograph before, things to possibly consider include framing, focus (foreground/ background), setting, perspective, symmetry, positive and negative space, lines, lighting, posing, motion, tone, subject, theme, angle, or composition. Be sure to include your photo in your assignment and be prepared to share with the class.